Hurricane forecasts have become quite accurate in recent years. Not only can meteorologists predict where a storm is likely to make landfall, they also have a good idea about the areas that will be impacted by a storm surge. Unfortunately, they haven't been able to explain the storm surge danger in a way people easily understood.
Happily, that’s about to change.
According to University of Florida meteorologist Jeff Huffman, the National Hurricane Center in Miami is in the process of rolling out easy-to-read, color-coded maps that show how far inland flooding caused by a storm surge could go.
"They've taken some new data over the last several years and come up with maps that predict, down to a tenth-of-a-foot, how high the water could rise in any particular neighborhood or location," he says.
A storm surge is sea water that's basically been pushed ashore by the wind. Sometimes, Huffman says, a storm surge will inundate areas miles inland, where flooding isn't usually a problem. It can be either relatively gradual or quite dramatic.
“Sometimes it can come in very, very quickly, if the storm is moving at a fast pace," continues Huffman. "It's sometimes a very visible rise in the water level that can occur within minutes.”
In addition to the new maps, the National Hurricane Center is also working on new storm surge watch and warning statements like those issued for hurricanes and tornadoes. The new alerts are expected to be ready to go by the start of the 2015 hurricane season.